Numbers One Through Five

Notwithstanding the title, these are not really ordered, except that I made some effort to put the “least worst” at the end of the list (don’t worry, George W. slipped in near the end). I did not parse it more finely than that–I leave it to you to decide, e.g., if John C. Calhoun was worse than George Wallace, or whether Benedict Arnold or Aldrich Ames was the greater traitor.

One more note: I intentionally excluded murderers and even assassins, choosing instead to focus mostly on political figures, since this is a political blog. Certainly, Manson, Jim Jones, Gacy, Dahmer, Bundy, as well as the political killers Oswald and Booth, were on my mind for this list, but killers would have taken up too many spots that I had saved for political figures. This does not mean that I think, for example, that Herbert Hoover (my #12) is more evil than these cold-blooded killers (he wasn’t; he was just really, really, bad at policy).

1. Jefferson Davis: For his major role in the Southern secession that lead to the Civil War (a war that, as a percentage of the current U.S. population, killed six million people. Actual number dead: 620,000 Americans-more than double the number who died in World War III). Secondarily, Davis makes the list for authoring The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, a rather sad attempt to blame the Civil War on the North (the Southern States seceded after Lincoln was duly elected).

2. George Wallace: This infamous statement saves me the time it would take to explain his inclusion in this list:

“Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever.”

3. Richard M. Nixon: Primarily for subverting Democracy by using intelligence agencies for political purposes; secondarily for his contribution to heightening the politics of scandal. Bombing Laos and Cambodia contribute to his position on the list.

4. James Kimble Vardaman: Eventual Governor of Mississippi and Jim Crow pioneer. In the dismantling of Reconstruction, Vardeman and Mississippi lead the way; the rest of the defeated Confederate states quickly followed suit. Here’s Vardaman at his best:

There is no use to equivocate or lie about the matter. Mississippi’s constitutional convention was held for no other purpose than to eliminate the ni–er from politics; not the ignorant — but the ni–er.

5. Sen. Joseph McCarthy: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”-Army Council Joseph Welch, 1954.